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NASCAR Las Vegas Pennzoil 400 preview

”The Last Lap with Seth Dunlap”
March 01, 2019 - 4:53 pm
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By:  Tim Zimmer, WWL NASCAR columnist

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels across the country this weekend as they head to Las Vegas. Sin City will host the Pennzoil 400, the third race of the season, after races in Atlanta and Daytona. One addition this week will be the placement of aero ducts to the cars. The purpose of this addition is to make for tighter, more exciting racing by lowering the horsepower in the cars.

When we look at the best drivers this week Kevin Harvick, the Vegas favorite, will be someone to consider. The #4 car is the defending champion of the Pennzoil 400 and has won here twice in the last four years. While Harvick’s dominance has shown in past years, the new car package that has been added in 2019 should balance out the field and limit the advantages some drivers have used in the past.

Two drivers I expect to contend for their first win of the 2019 season are Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch. Truex finished 2nd place last week in Atlanta despite having the best car in the race. Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch finished 2nd in Daytona and 6th place in Atlanta. Looking at past history, both drivers have finished in the top seven the past two Las Vegas races. Right now, it’s a three-way race for the top manufacturing company between the Joe Gibbs Toyotas and the Fords of Stewart-Haas and Penske.

Last week’s Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski returns to one of his best tracks. Since 2013, the #2 car has finished seventh or better every race and has won three times. His teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have also shown the same success here. While neither the #22 nor #12 have yet to win in Vegas, both cars are averaging at least a 6th place finish or better in the past three races here.

While those mentioned above should be the top drivers to consider this weekend, here are a two names to watch out on Sunday.

Kyle Larson not only had the best Chevrolet in the field last week he may have had one of the best cars for the 1.5 mile tracks. Vegas, similar to Atlanta, is a track where the #42 historically finishes with positive results. In the last three races here, Larson has finished with two 2nd place finishes and one 3rd place result.

Another driver who should benefit from his team’s alliance is the #21 Ford of Paul Menard. I mentioned the Penske Fords have looked like the team to beat here in the past, and Menard should be able to use the information given to him by the team to post a solid run on Sunday.  Last season with the Wood Brothers, Menard had two top 10 finishes.

Fantasy Drivers and “Best Bets”

Last week, I had Atlanta’s winner Brad Keselowski as my 3rd best driver in my top five. He and Kyle Busch (6th place finish) were my best bets for the race. Denny Hamlin was by #5 driver for the Daytona 500 so we’re 2/2 in race winners heading into Vegas. This week is fairly simple when deciding on who to choose. It’s going to be the two dominant cars of Joe Gibbs Racing and the Penske Fords.

5) Ryan Blaney: The #12 car is my best bet for the week. Blaney has shown the speed like his teammates winning Stage 2 in the Daytona 500, as well as, leading 41 laps last week. If he can put together a full race I could see the #12 in victory lane for third time in his career. With 12/1 odds before practice, I assume they will be lower by the time the green flag drops on Sunday. He will be my longshot to win. Odds: (Best Bet: 12/1)

4) Kyle Busch: Busch is returning to his hometown, along with his brother Kurt, this weekend to put on a show for the home crowd. It’ll be exactly ten years on Sunday since Kyle Busch has won in Las Vegas. His home track hasn’t shown him the best results, but he’s the hottest driver currently in 2019 so you always have to give #18 a chance to win. Odds: (11/2)

3) Brad Keselowski: The best driver of late in Vegas. The #2 car won the race in September solidifying a playoff victory. Could Keselowski do the same thing Kevin Harvick did last year and win back to back races coming off an Atlanta victory? It’s quite possible, but I don’t see how he will be able to do so with the new additions I mentioned earlier. Odds: (7/1)

2) Joey Logano: The driver who’s looked the best this season is Joey Logano. The #22 had the best Ford finish in the Daytona 500 and if not for a blown tire late in the Atlanta race, Logano would have finished in the top 3-5 spots. It’s only a matter of time before last season’s champion ends up in victory lane and this could be his best shot until Martinsville in about a month from now. Odds: (17/2)

1: Martin Truex Jr: No driver has dominated intermediate 1.5 mile long tracks like Martin Truex Jr has in the last year. Truex has finished 4th place or better four in the last five races in Vegas and has lead a total of 205 laps in that span. Expect the #19 to win a stage this week and be up front at the end like he was in Atlanta last week. Odds: (11/2)

You can catch the Pennzoil 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday on FOX at 2:30pm Central Time. You can follow Tim on Twitter for more NASCAR updates at @timzim1613

 

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